Random thoughts of a digital web weaver

Breaking Down the Problems You’re Solving

As of late, I have found that one of the most common pieces of advice that I give to the developers on my team has been to take a step back and break down the tasks they’re working on into smaller chunks.

It’s not a novel concept. It’s part of the problem solving process. In many cases, the developers that ask me for help have already broken down the problem to a certain degree but just haven’t gone far enough.

When I go about the process of tackling a problem, I’ll go through “break down” process many times. The first time, I’ll break down the overall problem into big buckets of tasks. I might go through a few iterations of this to see if there are different ways to tackle the problem. Once I’ve got my basic buckets, I’ll treat each one as a problem to solve and then break down each one independently. By going through this cycle, I get a good sense of the tasks that need to be done.

If I am working on a task that I start to feel overwhelmed with, I’ll treat it as a problem and run through the break down process again. I find that it helps me refocus and provides me with a clear path to completion.

Most of the time, the developers already know the answers for themselves, they just need to take a moment to look at the problem again and break it down some more so that they can see the specific steps they need to take to move forward.

Another “Women in Tech” Thought…

I’ve always been a supporter of women in the tech industry. I have been lucky to work with quite a few during my career. They have ranged from managers to developers with similar experience to those I have mentored. Through it all, I knew that as women in the industry, they had overcome larger hurdles to get to where they were than I had to.

Up until now, I think I simply acknowledged the fact that the gender issue existed and agreed that it needed to change. I can look back, put the pieces together, and see various occurrences where women I know have been discounted, pushed aside, or looked over. I look back with disappointment with myself that I didn’t recognize the pattern.

It’s bothered me a lot lately. Whether it’s guilt for not seeing things sooner, or the fact that I work with a group of incredible women who I want to see succeed, or because I continue to hear stories of women I respect being degraded even today, it makes me angry.

Lately, I’ve felt very over-protective of the women I work with in the tech industry (either directly or through social media). I’m not sure if I have the right to feel that way because despite the fact that I support them, I don’t know if I’ve actually done anything to help them. I don’t quite know what I should do. When should I intervene? When should I step back and provide space? Maybe the answers are right in front of me and I’m just blind to them?

I’ve never been opposed to asking for help and this is definitely one area where I could use it.

Thank You to the Women in Tech

The tech industry is well known for it’s gender gap. It’s an issue that continues and to which I have no solution for. I don’t even think I am qualified to provide a solution because I can’t relate to the problem. Even though I can articulate some of the issues, I will never be in a position to suffer the hostility and disadvantages as the women in the industry do on a daily basis.

I recently remarked on LinkedIn that I have been extremely fortunate throughout my career to have had the opportunity to work with many strong female developers. They broaden my perspective and help me grow stronger as a developer. They have and continue to teach, guide, motivate, and inspire me every day.

To all of the female developers that I work with daily or interact with over social media, as well as those that I don’t know, I want to say thank you. I appreciate everything you have done for myself and the industry and will continue to support you in any way that I can.

SVG: Set the right MIME type!

As the next part of my redesign, I created an SVG version of my pretty logo so that I could take advantage of the file format for multi-device use. Everything looked good locally so I pushed the image and code live… only to find out that a) I was getting scrollbars on the <embed> element and b) Firefox was asking for a plugin!

I spent quite a bit of time looking through the HTML, CSS, and SVG code trying to find out what was wrong and searching the Internet came up with a lot older posts regarding a Webkit height miscalculation bug. Since that issue had been fixed and I was having the same problem in Firefox, that wasn’t the issue.

Turns out the issue lay with my web hosting provider. They didn’t have the proper MIME-type set up for SVG images. This came as a surprise to me as I assumed they would have this in place but at least I had access to the .htaccess file. With the following two lines and a file upload, I was off to the races with my responsive SVG logo!

AddType image/svg+xml svg svgz
AddEncoding gzip svgz

So if you come across issues where your SVG isn’t rendering on the server, check to see that the MIME-type is properly set up.

I like Apple Maps

Ever since the new iPhone was released the Internet has been flooded with harsh criticism and hate for the new Apple Maps. It’s as though the world thinks there is a huge conspiracy by Apple to feed them bad directions so that people end up in the middle of nowhere or on a one way trip to Mars. For me, the backlash is just another example of how society has become impatient and hinges on instant gratification.

Personally, I like the new Apple Maps. I have used it a few times in the Seattle area and the mapping seems accurate so far. The “3D” view looks pretty slick and the graphical aspects are great as well. Having the turn-by-turn navigation has by far been the biggest improvement and if the sticking point between Google and Apple was that Google was unwilling to license their turn-by-turn technology then I am all for Apple going in their own direction as that feature was sorely missing from previous iOS versions.

By no means do I think that the new Apple Maps is perfect. I’m sure there are a ton of things that they need to fix. But I also believe that as they receive more feedback and data that the app will improve (just like Google Maps has improved over time). It is just a matter of being patient and giving Apple time to make those improvements. However, in today’s society where everyone is concerned with getting things “now”, being patient seems to be easier said than done.

IE Auto-Updates – What’s the Big Deal?

I was reading through the comments on Jeffrey Zeldman’s blog post about MSIE auto-updates and noticed that a fair number of people complained that the announcement by Microsoft means nothing in terms of getting users to upgrade. While they have a point that people and/or organizations can still decide to forego upgrading, I believe that announcements like this are more important from an education/informational standpoint than a technical one.

There is no guarantee that people will upgrade. But if you are a web professional in an organization, you can make your case for it. I believe it is up to you to bring up issues like upgrading from archaic browsers. As an expert in your field, you have the ability to collect information and present your it to decision makers. Announcements like Microsoft’s which are “straight from the horse’s mouth” give credibility to your recommendations.

It may be difficult for them to drop everything and upgrade (especially in a corporation with legacy systems) so they may still decide against upgrading at this time but at least you have made them aware that even MS is trying to get away from old versions of it’s browser. When they realize the direction in which their “go-to” web browser is going, hopefully it will get them thinking about what they need to do to make the switch.

Like I said, there is no guarantee. But every little step helps.

Google+ as a Personal Dashboard

The web is raving about Google+ (G+), social media’s new kid on the block and supposed Facebook (FB) killer.

Google icon in front of faded Facebook icon

Personally, I don’t think you’ll see a massive shift in user base from FB to G+. I think instead, you’ll see a shift in time on site as people will use G+ more than FB. The reason is that while FB is a great for connecting and socializing with people, G+ has the potential to be useful to a person on a day-to-day basis, especially if Google starts to integrate it’s other services into G+.

I have been playing around with G+ for a few days now and I think it’s great. But I also wish that other Google services such as Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs were integrated into it (clicking on the Gmail link and having it open up a new tab is annoying). It would be great to be able to customize the toolbar to include Google apps that you use regularly, add widgets to the sidebars, and search the web right from your homepage.

With all of the different web applications and services Google has at it’s disposal, G+ has the potential of becoming much more than just another social media website. It has the potential to become a customized personal dashboard that we use on a daily basis.

Subdomains on Steroids?

Internet Web Address w/ CursorWith the news of ICANN opening the door to custom Top-level Domains (TLDs), companies are already gearing up for registration and thinking of ways to capitalize on this new method of branding.

According to ICANN: “Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.”

Personally, I don’t think its all that innovative. It strikes me as being nothing more than a sub-domain without the extension on the end. With an application fee of $185k and a yearly fee of $25k, it seems like just another web name for big biz to brag about having.

I’m sure companies are going to jump at the chance to get their own custom TLDs. There’s nothing wrong with that. A company like Nike would probably love to not have to worry about registering the Nike domain whenever a new country TLD comes out (but they’ll probably do that anyways) and they’ll like the idea of branding a site with “”.

But at the end of the day, I don’t really see it changing anything about the way we use the web. We’re still going to load up a web browser and a) type in a URL (whatever it may be) into the address bar or b) search for something in our favourite search engine and click on a link.